The Sound of Slurs: Bad Sounds for Bad Words

Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy (forthcoming)
  Copy   BIBTEX


An analysis of a valenced corpus of English words revealed that words that rhyme with slurs are rated more poorly than their synonyms. What at first might seem like a bizarre coincidence turns out to be a robust feature of slurs, one arising from their phonetic structure. We report novel data on phonaesthetic preferences, showing that a particular class of phonemes are both particularly disliked, and overrepresented in slurs. We argue that phonaesthetic associations have been an overlooked source of some of the more peculiar, arational aspects of slurs. We conclude by drawing broader morals about the evolution of the lexicon.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The sound of taboo.Robin Vallery & Maarten Lemmens - 2021 - Pragmatics and Cognition 28 (1):87-137.
Bad Words: Philosophical Perspectives on Slurs.David Sosa (ed.) - 2018 - Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Communicating with Slurs.Jesse Rappaport - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (277):795-816.
Slurs under quotation.Stefan Rinner & Alexander Hieke - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (5):1483-1494.
The Social Life of Slurs.Geoffrey Nunberg - 2018 - In Daniel Fogal, Daniel W. Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press.
Do Racists Speak Truly? On the Truth‐Conditional Content of Slurs.Ralph DiFranco - 2015 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 4 (1):28-37.
Not all slurs are equal.Mihaela Popa-Wyatt - 2016 - Phenomenology and Mind 11:150-156.
Slurs, synonymy, and taboo.Sandy Berkovski - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
A rich-lexicon theory of slurs and their uses.Dan Zeman - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65 (7):942-966.
What is a slur?Justina Diaz-Legaspe - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1399-1422.


Added to PP

492 (#36,547)

6 months
187 (#14,077)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Eric Mandelbaum
CUNY Graduate Center

Citations of this work

Towards a Fregean psycholinguistics.Thorsten Sander - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Inferential Transitions.Jake Quilty-Dunn & Eric Mandelbaum - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (3):532-547.
The Semantics of Racial Epithets.Christopher Hom - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (8):416-440.
Meaning and uselessness: How to think about derogatory words.Jennifer Hornsby - 2001 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 25 (1):128–141.
A study in phonetic symbolism.E. Sapir - 1929 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 12 (3):225.

Add more references